Congress is coming after e-cigarettes

This article originally appeared on Motherboard.

A coalition of lawmakers have set their sights on e cigarettes and have, in a new report, asked the Food and Drug Administration to impose cigarette like restrictions on them as soon as possible.

The report, commissioned by 12 Democratic lawmakers in September and released Monday, says that e cig manufacturers are taking advantage of a loophole in regulatory law (and by loophole, they mean that there s not a law yet) and are marketing their products to children for as long as they can before the FDA (or Congress) imposes some sort of rule on them.

E cigarettes are an emerging, heavily marketed nicotine delivery product, and federal regulations have not kept pace with the increasing popularity of these products, the report noted. FDA should promptly issue deeming regulations asserting authority to regulate e cigarettes.

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Basically, traditional cigarette companies aren t allowed to sell smokes to minors, aren t allowed to market their products in candy flavored versions, can t advertise on television and radio, can t sponsor youth events, can t sell them in vending machines (except in bars), can t give out free samples, have to put warning messages on their packages, need FDA review of new products before they go out to market, and so on.

Despite the fact that lots of vapers want the federal government to place at least some regulations on e cigs, nothing has happened so far. E cigarette companies aren t required to comply with any of the rules that traditional tobacco companies are. And they re certainly benefiting from it.

There are e cigs called Cherry Crush, Vivid Vanilla, Pineapple Luau, and Vanilla Mist.

There are e cig commercials all over TV, marketing budgets have increased by as much as 300 percent at some companies, and vape companies have sponsored the iHeartRadio music festival, Coachella, the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, and all sorts of other events cigarette companies wouldn t be let near.

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All surveyed companies appear to use various marketing practices that appeal to youth, the report noted. FDA should issue regulations to prohibit the sale of e cigarettes to any person under the age of 18 FDA should ban and companies should cease marketing e cigarettes in ways that are attractive to children and teens under the age of 18 E cigarette manufacturers should refrain from the use of television and radio advertisements FDA should require strong, uniform labels to inform consumers of health risks and should prohibit misleading product claims.

It s looking like e cigarettes regulation free honeymoon period is probably coming to an end Sen. Sherrod Brown (D Ohio), one of the lawmakers who commissioned the report, said that the report is further evidence that the administration must act quickly to regulate electronic cigarettes Big Tobacco can create new products with a fresh new image, but its goal remains the same to market addictive and harmful products to children.

The thing is, e cigarette companies and traditional big tobacco aren’t mutually exclusive things.

Lorillard makes Blu, one of the most popular e cigs, but they also sell Newport, Kent, and Maverick cigarettes.

Altria sells Mark Ten e cigs, and Marlboro. R.J. Reynolds sells Vuse, but is also the second biggest cigarette company in the country.

Those companies advertise their e cigs in places where their more traditional products would never be allowed. Each of those companies told Congress that they support «some» federal e cigarette regulation.

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The FDA, for its part, has moved slowly on the issue. Three years ago, the agency said they were considering regulating e cigs, but they haven t done so yet, electing only to regulate the ones specifically marketed for therapeutic purposes (that is, those that are specifically marketed to help you quit smoking). Instead, the agency says it intents to issue a proposed rule extending FDA s tobacco product authorities beyond cigarettes to include other products like e cigarettes.

Currently 28 states ban the sale of e cigarettes to minors, and some cities have put tobacco like restrictions on e cigarettes, but there have been no federal rules yet.

With so much attention coming from Capitol Hill, plus recent studies that suggest e cigarettes are getting kids hooked on traditional smokes, and the news that e cigs might not be as harmless as they seem, you can expect that to change soon.

Photo by Flickr user Lindsay Fox

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Q I recently have started using an e cigarette. It has dramatically cut down my smoking of traditional cigarettes, plus there is no smoke smell or residual on clothing or furniture.

I initially experienced headaches and was told to reduce the nicotine percentage in the liquid. That helped. Are you aware of any other side effects?

A Electronic cigarettes contain a battery powered heater to vaporize a nicotine solution so that the nicotine can be inhaled. This avoids some of the other toxins in cigarette smoke, but nicotine itself can have side effects. They include headache, heart rhythm disturbances and elevated blood pressure.

A preliminary report in JAMA Internal Medicine (online, March 24, 2014) noted that people using e cigarettes were no more likely to quit smoking than those using traditional cigarettes alone. Nicotine is a powerfully addicting drug.

Q Insurers require us to use generic drugs. My wife and I both take Ambien when we travel, which is quite often.

If we were buying brand name Ambien, it would cost us more than $350 out of pocket for 30 pills. Our insurance would not pay a penny.

The generic zolpidem costs $8 to $10 for the same number of pills. We have found that one generic works just like the brand name, but a different maker s generic doesn t work at all.

So far, we ve been able to request the specific maker we prefer from the pharmacy. But we worry that if the pharmacy can t supply the one that works, we might get no sleep at all on our journeys. Do you have any recommendations about how to deal with this problem?

A Like hundreds of other readers, you have discovered that generic drugs are not all «identical.» Despite reassurances from the Food and Drug Administration, some generic manufacturers seem to provide better products than others.

Your strategy to request the generic that works for you is sensible. This approach may require planning ahead, since the pharmacy might have to place a special order for you.

Q Ever since I went on a low carb diet in 1964 (before Atkins), I have used only whole milk. When the government began advocating a low fat diet, Americans became obese, because when you remove the fat from a product, you have to add carbs to make it taste better.

My husband is a type 2 diabetic. When he took charge of his diet, he found that by eating very low carb and high fat, his blood lipids improved, and he lost weight. He can keep his blood sugar under control without insulin when he eats very low carb.

A Contrary to conventional dietary advice, a recent meta analysis of nutritional studies found no convincing connection between a diet high in saturated fat and an elevated risk of heart disease (Annals of Internal Medicine, March 18, 2014). This finding is controversial, but seems in line with your family s experience.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th floor, New York, NY 10019, or via their website